Careful What You Wish For

Facts, as we know them, haven’t been around very long. It was only a hundred and fifty years ago that science, literacy, communications, and availability of written material started kicking in, providing the distribution of knowledge beyond previously limited enclaves.

It was exciting at first, knowing the world as it is, instead of what we thought it was. New discoveries! New understanding! New breakthroughs! All with the promise of more amazing things to come, soon as we got more facts under our belts. Finally, humanity was being liberated from millennia of superstition!

Yeah, funny thing about that: Folks stopped caring.

It’s not like facts had led a blessed existence, free of interference. Facts can be cherry-picked. Facts can be withheld. Facts can be overemphasized, or not emphasized enough. Facts, gathered into arguments, can be twisted beyond recognition.

But even as we were growing up, facts remained a standard of public conversation. Spin like hell if you want, but don’t you dare lie to us. That’s not how we play the game, pal.

The game itself has been dishonest, however, and that has had deep consequences. Spinning may not be lying, but it’s still an obfuscation of truth, an avoidance of reality — and an abrogation of trust. If you’re less than honest with what you know, your word may be doubted on subsequent airings.

When Timothy Leary coined the phrase “Question Authority” in the 1960s, there was good reason to follow his guidance. America’s leaders were being dishonest with America’s citizens — nothing new there, but the gap between words and facts was too great to sustain. In the following decade, facts would emerge about activities conducted in our country’s name that put generations of words to shame. We had been told we were the good guys. In all too many cases, we weren’t.

And then, in November 1980, we collectively decided to hell with facts. They were too crushing to bear. Tell us a good story instead. Give us that old-time superstition.

Facts didn’t just go away overnight. It’s taken us a few decades to wean ourselves off them. But they’ve been steadily eroding, dwindling in significance, to the point where you’re simply adorable for even caring about them. Everybody knows facts don’t matter anymore. Where have you been?

Here’s where we are: A couple of weeks ago, the UK hosted its first Flat Earth Convention, full of presentations with a pretense of scientific practice, but clear disdain for actual, y’know, scientists. A few even showed up for a debate, admonishing the crowd to look beyond videos and bloggers for evidence. “We’re not reliant on what the mainstream are telling us in newspapers,” came the response. “We can decide for ourselves.”

Apply that to vaccinations. Apply that to global warming. Apply that to any field where defiant, aggressive ignorance has replaced even lip-service to facts. We’ve come to question all authority, legitimate or not. We’ve collectively turned away from reality.

Reality’s still there, by the way. So are facts. And we can tell ourselves all the stories we want, but when we step off that cliff, we’re still falling into the abyss.

13 comments:

10:39 am • Saturday • May 12, 2018

Easier to be aggressively ignorant.

11:05 am • Saturday • May 12, 2018

Question Reality

10:18 am • Tuesday • May 15, 2018

Anyone care to speculate about the real reason Worst Lady Melanoma has been hospitalized this week? It’d be irresponsible not to.

1. Pills (duh)
2. Even more plastic surgery to turn her into a K-Pop star.
3. Putting the finishing touches on that beautiful lobotomy.

1:01 pm • Tuesday • May 15, 2018

@¡Andrew!: The kid is not my son.

4:22 pm • Tuesday • May 15, 2018

@nojo: She already looks like she woke up Korean one day. If those facial reupholsterers pull her skin back any tighter, she’s gonna be able to see the inside of her own skull.

9:46 pm • Wednesday • May 16, 2018

So, who’s Ronan Farrow’s father?

1. Woody Allen
2. Frank Sinatra
3. The Devil

(I came here to make a list, and then I saw that ¡Andrew! already had, and then I decided I don’t care.)

If we can identify the origin of Ronan’s DSLs, we’ll know his father.

11:23 pm • Wednesday • May 16, 2018

@JNOV: Woody. Poor kid. I thought he came with the wedding.

10:28 am • Thursday • May 17, 2018

/good news/

This lovely story gave me all the feels:

New Jersey gay teens’ post-prom boardwalk stroll creates memorable moment

5:57 pm • Thursday • May 17, 2018

@nojo: The Devil, then.

@¡Andrew!: Seaside Heights? People were kind in Seaside Heights? That is truly wonderful. Wonderful.

8:25 pm • Thursday • May 17, 2018

@JNOV: Things look terrible right now, but always remember–we’re winning.

9:51 pm • Thursday • May 17, 2018

@¡Andrew!: <3

And then they decided to come for women’s rights again.

Time to donate to PP in Mike Pence’s name, y’aw.

Well…that’s been done. Whose name should we use?

10:24 am • Friday • May 18, 2018

@JNOV: Rudie Guili9/11ni. He’s dying anyway.

Actually, it looks like Rudie is about to plead the insanity defense.

10:46 am • Friday • May 18, 2018

@¡Andrew!: He’s almost as crazy as Sam Nunberg.

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